The extended rear facing car seat may seem a new concept, but in actual fact has been available since the late 1980’s. Safety is of course paramount, so placing a child facing backwards offers greater protection in the event of a collision, as the seat absorbs the impact, protecting the head, neck and spine.
Nobody can foresee the severity of crashes, but as most of the really dangerous ones seem to involve frontal impact, then it has to make sense to offer a child the best chance of avoiding injury by having them face the opposite way.
There are many variations available with the better versions providing things like: a 360 degree swivel feature for ease of getting them in and out, pop up side-impact panels, additional padding and adjustable connectors.
Naturally as a child gets older they will put pressure on parents to sit forward facing, but the sensible approach is to keep them rear facing for as long as possible.